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A message from ASQA’s Chief Commissioner about qualification documentation

29 May 2015

Letter from ASQA Chief Commissioner Christopher Robinson to ASQA RTOs

Dear provider,

You may be aware of recent media reports alleging that a Chinese business – Overseas Students Assistant HD – was charging students for forged degrees and diplomas from Australian education institutions. These reports alleged that universities and TAFE institutes had been targeted.

These are very serious allegations which have the ability to undermine the Australian vocational education and training (VET) sector.

In the time since the media reports were published, the Australian Skills Quality Authority (ASQA) has been in communication with the Australian Government Department of Education and Training and the Tertiary Education Quality Standards Agency (TEQSA) regarding this issue.

The purpose of this letter is to remind you of your RTO’s responsibility under the Standards for Registered Training Organisations (RTOs) 2015 to authenticate and verify a graduate’s qualification documentation.

Advice on meeting the specific Standard – Standard 3, clauses 3.1-3.4 – is available in the Users Guide to the Standards for RTOs 2015, which is available for download on the ASQA website.

As stated in the guide, your RTO must have mechanisms in place to reduce fraudulent reproduction of its certification. ASQA advises that at a minimum, your RTO should include the RTO’s seal, corporate identifier or unique watermark on its certification.

You can also take steps to reduce the chance of fraudulent qualifications by:

  • not allowing third parties to create qualifications or statements of attainment on behalf of your RTO
  • using documents that:
    • use a template with ‘copy protected’ text that makes otherwise hidden text visible when the document is copied or scanned
    • are printed on corporate paper (e.g. letterhead with a multi-coloured background) that makes it clear when a document is not the original
    • include an embossed seal or logo in the paper
    • use a template that includes text or graphic design components that are ‘micro-printed’ and cannot be reproduced using generally available equipment
    • have all important details (e.g. graduate’s name, qualification name, date) printed over a multi-coloured ‘watermark’ background, such as your RTO logo, so they are more difficult to change
    • include a bar code, QR code or serial number that links to verification information on your RTO’s website
    • include information about what security measures your certification includes on your RTO’s website (and reference this on the documents)
  • if digital documents are issued (e.g. PDF documents), include a digital signature that will show a visible warning if the document is altered. Note that a scan of someone’s signature is not a digital signature.

If you have any concerns that your qualifications have been forged, you should report this to the police for investigation and advise ASQA of the matter.

By being diligent and having proper mechanisms in place, all training providers can limit the harm that fraudsters can inflict on students and the wider VET sector.

Yours sincerely

Christopher Robinson
Chief Commissioner and Chief Executive Officer
Australian Skills Quality Authority